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'Inhuman, unacceptable': Letter to Modi on order to close shops, 'preventive' arrests

Counterview Desk
 
A voluntary group, calling itself Concerned Citizens of Gujarat, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has protested against the orders issued by the State authorities to the street vendors in several areas to close shop for the days Modi would be visiting Gujarat from March 11, calling it a violation of the right to pursue livelihood by thousands of citizens.
The letter states, “Such unconstitutional orders and harassment by public officials need to be stopped forthwith. It not only shows an inhuman approach, but also a total lack of capability to manage security details without disrupting normal life of citizens.”

Text:

We have come to know that you will be visiting your home state Gujarat for a few days from the March 11. We understand in their efforts to ensure your security the Government of Gujarat along with Ahmedabad and other Municipal Corporations that are part of your itinerary are taking the requisite steps as per protocols and Standard Operating Procedures. We fully understand and support the security arrangements that are needed in the event of the visit of the Prime Minister and other senior public servants of the state.
However, we are concerned about some actions of the government authorities in Gujarat which violate the fundamental rights of citizens. Some of these actions are delineated below:
The authorities have issued orders that in all the areas that you will be visiting and along the route that you would be travelling, street vendors should not conduct business from March 10 to 12. Street vendors who work on the SG highway, Prahladnagar, Ashram Road, Airport area, Stadium, 132 feet Ring Road and the GMDC area and Vastrapur Lake have already been closed for vending as conveyed to us by representatives of street vendors.
While the police and authorities have the mandate to ensure that there would be no compromise in the security of the PM and his entourage, such a violation of the right to pursue livelihood of thousands of citizens simply cannot be tolerated; such unconstitutional orders and harassment by public officials need to be stopped forthwith. It not only shows an inhuman approach, but also a total lack of capability to manage security details without disrupting normal life of citizens.
The PM’s itinerary is meticulously organized and scheduled. It is understandable, if, for a short period of time when the PM’s convoy passes (may be even upto half a day) or when the PM is holding meetings in a particular venue the shops and vendors could close for a few hours. But to issue such blanket orders as to close their business for 2 or 3 days is inhuman, violative of the right to life and livelihood of thousands of citizens and lowers the dignity of the PM’s office. Hence it is important that you as the PM instruct the respective governments and authorities that such orders be revoked and work out the logistics in a manner that protects the livelihoods of citizens.
It should be noted that this violative practice of closing down street vending has been going on since a number of years (2014-15) and it is high time that you take the initiative to put an end to it.
Indiscriminate preventive detention and arrests, house arrests, ‘najar kaid’ of civil society activists have started, and is expected to intensify further. We are aware of several such cases and have received complaints of such harassment and detention by local police, ATS, SOG and Crime Branch.
Indiscriminate preventive detention and arrests, house arrests, ‘najar kaid’ of civil society activists have started, and is expected to intensify further
Such detention and arrests of activists without any provocation or intent by wrongfully invoking the provisions under Bombay Police Act or BPMC Act or even PASA, is a violation of the freedom of expression and mobility in a democracy. This again lowers the dignity of the august office you occupy, as the PM of world’s largest democracy.
In fact we believe that if during your visit safe and orderly protests are allowed it would definitely enhance the image of our country. But even if that is not allowed, preventive detention and arrests should be stopped forthwith; and we suggest that you personally intervene to stop such undemocratic acts by the law enforcement authorities.
Such preventive action targeting history-sheeters, people with criminal records, those with licensed fire-arms in the region is understandable; but to harass law-abiding citizens and activists is simply not acceptable, just because they may have expressed dissent or opposition to the government. Such actions are unconstitutional, and when resorted to ostensibly for the security of highest Jan Sevak of our nation (the PM) it erodes our great democracy and the faith of its citizens in your leadership.
We, the concerned citizens of Gujarat, therefore demand that you personally intervene to rescind the order preventing street vendors from conducting business for five days. We also demand that you intervene to instruct the DGP of Gujarat to ensure that civil society activists and political leaders are not harassed or detained by the law enforcement authorities.

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